AfroFuture Fest’s Discriminatory Pricing

On The Diversity of Classic Rock, sometimes I write about social issues and music and this story that I found out about on Twitter caught my eye and was something that would be perfect to comment on and unpack on the blog.

I first found out about it because of outspoken British conservative rapper Zuby. Obviously, I’m not a fan of his and I have very different views, but we can agree that this pricing structure is bollocks. Fighting discrimination with discrimination, really?

This festival’s pricing scheme got people talking:

Music YouTuber Anthony Fantano asked what people thought of Detroit rapper Tiny Jag dropping out of the festival and here’s what I had to say:

Now it’s time to analyse and unpack the issue.

What is Afro Future Fest?

Afro Future Fest will be on in Detroit on August 3rd. I could not find much information and a google search leads me to this other festival of the same name that is about comicsย  that was supposed to take place in 2016, but was cancelled. No Facebook event page or social media page for this particular festival.

All I can find from Afro Future Fest is an Eventbrite page where people can buy tickets. The event consists of a youth festival in the afternoon and early evening with spiritual activities: a drum circle, arts, healing activations, and a bonfire. Sounds like a cool hippie kind of event, I suppose. From the late evening to the wee hours the main festival is on, which has an Afro-Black Futurist theme. The festival claims that this will be like if Essence Festival and AfroPunk had a baby. Well… We’ll see about that.

What makes this festival stand out is the pricing scheme and the event organisers address why they did it this way. This is a direct quote from the event page.

“Why do we have POC (people of colour) and non-POC (white people) tickets? I’m glad you asked!

Equality means treating everyone the same. Equity is insuring [sic] everyone has what they need to be successful. Our ticket structure was built to insure [sic] that the most marginalised communities (people of colour) are provided with an equitable chance at enjoying events in their own community (Black Detroit).

Affording joy and pleasure is unfortunately still a privilege in our society for POC and we believe everyone should have access to receiving such. We’ve seen too many times orgasmic events happening in Detroit and other POC populated cities and what consistently happens is people outside the community benefitting most from affordable ticket prices because of their proximity to wealth.

This cycle disproportionately displaces black and brown people from enjoying entertainment in their own communities.

As an Afrofuturist youth lead [sic] initiative, the voices of our youth inform our resistance.

Here’s what they have to say: “If you don’t see my blackness, you don’t see me. Periodt!”

The problem with this festival

Well, it’s quite obvious what it is. Different prices depending on what your ethnicity or skin colour is. The event has a limited number of free tickets for people of colour. Some early bird tickets for people of colour for $10, early bird tickets for white people for $20, regular priced tickets for people of colour for $20, and regular priced tickets for white people for $40. Yikes!

ILRYFNW

There are times when different prices or a sliding scale are acceptable. Like concessionย  (discount) tickets for students, senior citizens, or the unwaged. That sort of stuff is okay because students, senior citizens, and the unemployed have limited money compared to those who have full time jobs and more disposable income. It’s very thoughtful for businesses to consider those who have not as many means.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen unequal pricing. Remember when gender equality/wage gap bake sales were popular? This bake sale was meant to highlight the wage gap between men and women, by charging men $1 for a cookie and charging women 77 cents for a cookie. You can see an example below:

1a19faf527bab861d11f2cad22e404b6--wage-gap-bake-sale-cookies

There are reasons I’m not a fan of this. I don’t think that 77 cents figure tells the whole story and there are many factors why wages vary between workers: hours worked, credentials, ability to negotiate, experience, seniority, position in the company, and many more. Using bad, oversimplified statistics isn’t going to help our case.

That said, I think there are some inequalities between men and women and pay. I spoke to a journalist who did a whole talk on feminism and journalism about this and she said that at first, wages are equal, but what happens is that women take time off to raise their kids and therefore it puts them at a disadvantage because when you take time off, you are less likely to be promoted, it’s hard to get back into work, sometimes you need re-training, you might need flexible hours, on and on.

Women have some unfair expectations when it comes to childcare and being a parent. Fathers are basically just expected to provide financially, while mothers have to have two jobs basically, one of them (parenting) being unpaid. This can also hurt men because they should be there for their kids and if mothers and fathers were both encouraged to take parental leave, that would make it more equal for women.

There are better ways of making your point than charging men more for a cookie.

I have similar things to say about Afro Future Fest’s pricing. They define “Person of Colour” as non-white. The thing is we have to quit this binary thinking. There are many people who are part white and part something else. So what happens to those who are mixed? How non-white do you need to be to get a POC ticket? Are pale skinned non-white or mixed people going to be scrutinised when they show up to this festival? Wouldn’t this create an unsafe environment for mixed people who look white? Doesn’t sound inclusive to me.

Who is white even? Aren’t race and the borders between continents a social construct? Humans created these borders and classifications after all.

On Twitter, I’ve been targeted because I’m a very pale Hispanic. I’m very aware of this fact thank you very much. People shout “privileged” at me without even knowing my life or my background. It’s so dismissive. At this point, I’m going to have to carry a photo of my grandma with me.

I think this also ignores the fact that there are a lot of white people who are working class. It’s disaffected rural white working class voters who voted Democrat in 2008 and 2012 (some of whom even voted for Bernie in the primaries) who flipped to Trump because they didn’t want more of the same and they felt desperate.

A lot of coastal/city Democrats looked down upon working class white voters in middle America and swing states and felt that they weren’t needed to win and wrote them off as rednecks, hillbillies, hicks, deplorables. Insulting and alienating voters will surely win them over.

Understanding class is important in understanding America, why it’s so messed up, and addressing the inequality. I find that in a lot of social justice movements class is ignored and that can alienate people.

This is why I like the Berniecrat approach of focusing on class and uniting diverse groups of people and not ignoring actual systemic oppression. It’s important to get people to understand that the rich don’t care about the poor and they’re trying to pit poor people against each other. Working people outnumber rich people by a lot and if working people are united, they can vote out the oligarchs.

How they could have done better

I’m not going to say this festival is literally the worst thing ever. I’ll be charitable. I think it has potential. Black centred festivals are a great idea and a great way to share culture and for people to unite, but we shouldn’t be discriminatory and charge people differently based on the colour of their skin or where their ancestors are from. We need to be inclusive.

I applaud their mission of being inclusive and ensuring that the festival is affordable and priced fairly. Too many festivals are so expensive. Detroit, like many cities in America, is being gentrified, being revitalised but pushing out poorer people in the process. Gentrification is great if you’re a well to do property owner or someone coming in to invest, but not so great if you’re renting or working class.

The problem I have is the execution, the racist pricing. Here are two alternative pricing schemes that I think could have worked better:

  1. They could have gone the pay what you can donation route to include as many people as possible and have suggested donation amounts for regular price (full time employed adults), senior citizen, students, underemployed, unemployed, those receiving disability benefits. Donations would run on the honour system, not judgemental and I think this would create a safer space.
  2. Equal pricing for all people at say $20 advance and $30 at the door with some tickets being given away to students at underfunded schools. Have donation buckets that go to various local charities and causes if people want to donate.

Ultimately, I think we are all divided by class and the ruling classes in the US have used other differences to divide the working people in this country and conquer them, pitting people against each other. Money is what gives people opportunity. Money doesn’t solve everything, but it buys things that make your life easier.

I hope to see more artists pulling out of this trainwreck of a festival. It began with some good intentions, but it’s regressive. Eventbrite should refund all buyers and ban the festival from selling tickets with such a discriminatory policy. Take a stand, Eventbrite!

Update 8 July 2019: Eventbrite threatened to drop Afro Future Fest. Their policies do not allow events that charge different prices based on race or ethnicity. If the festival do not change their pricing structure, they will be banned from Eventbrite. The festival have since changed their pricing to a general admission ticket plus a “Non-POC suggested donation”.

Shout out to my good friend and Topaz level Patron, Patrick.

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